28 March, 2008

Let's Get Out of Here

This is how Andrew Bird's new song - tentatively titled "Oh No" - begins. He hasn't finished writing "Oh No", because he feels that one of his lines is too clever and too idiosyncratic, but we'll get to the "calcified charismatists" later.

Right now, at this very bleak New England moment, I'm relishing my organic breakfast cereal and wishing that "Superstar" by Sonic Youth will magically appear on my iTunes. It's the kind of day that makes me want to curl up in a big blanket and watch Bend It Like Beckham, and forget that there are things I really should be doing like writing papers on sperm whales and puzzling through dimensional analyses.

If I absolutely had my way, then I would be daydreaming for a living, like our Andrew Bird. I already do a lot of daydreaming, and I find it a useful sort of escape. I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I like to think that my daydreaming is similar to his violin playing: it keeps one part of my mind amused so I can organize the thoughts in the other sections, and possibly come to some conclusions. Let's just say that if daydreaming paid, then I'd be rich. Then again, if we lived in the kind of world where daydreaming paid, I don't think anyone would have any use for money.

What sent my mind spiraling off in all of these odd directions, is a blog post by Mr. Bird on the New York Times website. The blog is called Measure For Measure: How To Write A Song and Other Mysteries, and Andrew Bird, Roseanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, and Darrel Brown are all involved in the writing. So far, there's only the post by Andrew Bird, but it gives the reader quite an insight into the artist's individual songwriting process. As with any artist, the individual process of creating art doesn't usually say a lot about the genre as a whole, but it can tell you an awful lot about a single musician and what the hell they're trying to say.

Here's a link to the blog: Measure For Measure: How To Write A Song and Other Mysteries

For those lovely blog readers who would rather spend their time listening to Andrew Bird's music, and puzzling it out like my dimensional analyses, there's always Bird's latest album Soldier On. Released in February, it's short and sweet, and rather down-tempo and melancholy. After reading his blog, I'd like to claim that I love everything this guy has ever written, but unfortunately, I don't.

There are a few gems on this album, including the opening song "The Trees Were Mistaken". The musicality is key here, because I can actually hear a forest in his shaking percussion and wailing, whistling vocal hums. "Plasticities (Remix)" is another song that's particularly likable, and on this song Bird's voice shines with a supporting cast of instruments. "Sectionate City" and "Oh Sister" capture distinct periods in time and geographical locations. "Sectionate City" is influenced heavily by traditional Asian music, and has an anachronistic feel or maybe just a certain openness that feels anachronistic because there are now so few open spaces in the world. "Oh Sister", on the other hand, has a whistling country certainty that's connected to the western half of the United States (at least in my mind) and the wide-open spaces where the buffalo roam. These are the four songs that happily caught my attention, and I'll let you make up your own mind on the other four. I'm off to daydream now, and probably work my way towards that paper.

Happy listening!

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